Unfortunately, hay baling and handling equipment can and does cause many farmers and ranchers' injuries and some deaths each year. In the last two years I've read numerous stories about farm accidents while baling hay, such as; a farmer caught his shirt in a hay baler, a farmer catches his arm in the PTO of a self-unloading wagon, farmer dies of internal injuries when caught in a hay baler and a farmer is crushed to death by a load of hay that topples from a hay wagon as a flat tire is being changed.
Fatigue increases stress levels and encourages us to take dangerous shortcuts. Often, a break in the weather for getting the hay down, dried and baled is small, but it has to get done. The window for getting the best quality hay is very narrow and you are tempted to push to beat the weather, many serious injuries and deaths occur on farms at such a time. Remember no crop, no matter how large or valuable is worth an injury or death. Slow down and use common sense, listed below are some tips to be safe at hay harvest time:
- Read the operator's manual again. Hay equipment is used only during the summer, giving you nearly a year to forget the safety warnings.
- Keep yourself alert: drink plenty of liquids, eat regular meals, get enough sleep and take breaks.
- Make sure all guards and shields are in place on all your equipment.
- NEVER try to unplug the baler until you have disengaged the power take-off, shut off the tractor engine and put the ignition key in your pocket.
- For conventional balers: the flywheel keeps the machine operating for a considerable amount of time after power is disengaged. Never work on a baler until the flywheel has completely stopped.
- For round balers: make sure twine is properly threaded and the twine arm is adjusted and in good working condition. Do not feed twine by hand into the baler.
- Clean the baler to remove crop residues, mouse nests, and other debris. Lubricate according to manufacturer's specifications.
- Check for loose or missing nuts, screws, guards, or damaged pickup teeth.
- Inspect all belts and chains for evidence of wear or breakage. Belt tension should be matched to prevent slippage.
- Check hydraulic hoses to make sure they are clean, in good shape and hooked up correctly. Check the twine feeding and cutting mechanisms for proper operation.
- For forage wagons: stay clear of the discharge conveyor while operating, remain in the tractor seat.
- For mowers and conditioners: NEVER try to adjust cutter bars, reels, or conditioning rollers without disengaging the power. Avoid working close to the equipment because of the sharp edges and points.
- Check tires, lights, reflectors and slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs. Properly operating fire extinguishers should be mounted on both tractor and baler.
REMEMBER-THIS IS A ONE-PERSON OPERATION ON THE TRACTOR! NEVER ALLOW ANYONE TO RIDE WITH YOU ON EITHER THE TRACTOR OR BALER. THIS IS NO PLACE FOR CHILDREN.